KEY TO TYPICAL ENTREE PRICES
$ — $10 OR LESS
$$ — $11 TO $15
$$$ — $16 TO $25
$$$$ — $26 AND UP
Peregrine/ $$$$ This Mediterranean-style restaurant is the second creation from Joshua Lewin and Katrina Jazayeri, who run Juliet in Somerville’s Union Square. Their new spot off the Whitney Hotel’s lobby serves simple plates at dinner: tagliatelle and clams with chili oil; tomato salad with breadcrumbs and balsamic; hake in olive butter with herbs, corn, and tomatoes. As a hotel restaurant, Peregrine also serves breakfast and lunch. But this isn’t your standard steamed-egg-and-flaccid-pancake hotel fare. At breakfast, smashed chickpeas on toast or buckwheat pancakes with dark chocolate and cultured butter. At lunch, one of the finest Sicilian-style pizzas I’ve ever had. 170 Charles Street, Boston, 617-826-1762, whitneyhotelboston.com —Kara Baskin
Oleana / $$$$ If you can embrace not-knowing, you will be rewarded here. The chef’s choice of four vegetable meze and dessert is a deal: $45. Our meal begins with squares of za’atar-crusted bread with oil for dipping. The meze start arriving. They change all the time, so that the chef’s choice is an entirely different meal from night to night. So while we have a pea salad topped with a fluff of shaved cheese and a sprinkle of hazelnuts, you might get charred carrots with lemon labne and hazelnut sauce. We probably both have topik, described on the menu as “stuffed hummus,” a chickpea-potato mashup lashed with sweet date molasses. At the end comes something sweet: Turkish-style profiteroles, maybe — or, if you’re lucky, baby baked Alaska. 134 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, 617-661-0505,oleanarestaurant.com —Devra First
Shy Bird / $$$ Shy Bird in Kendall Square is the latest from Andrew Holden, known for Watertown’s Branch Line (another chicken hot spot) and Eastern Standard in the Fenway. Holden designed the all-day rotisserie to be “accessible and affordable.” On the menu, thoughtful snacks: clam toast with green olives, baked artichoke dip, rosemary black pepper fries. There’s also a chicken for two, if you’re on a date: a whole roasted bird with a green salad, sauce, and choice of side. To drink, try the Dirty Birdy, made with vodka, herb-infused brine, and dry vermouth. 1 Broadway, Cambridge, 617-714-4200,shybird.com —K.B.
Tawakal Halal Cafe / $$ Located on a corner in a burgundy building not much bigger than a garden shed, this little Somali restaurant just got a big break: It was among 50 nominees selected by Bon Appetit for the magazine’s annual “Hot 10” list of the country’s best new restaurants. The cafe features traditional Somali cuisine from sambusas, samosa-like turnovers filled with ground beef; biryani with slow-cooked goat or falafel and hummus; and chicken stew pooling over a base of coconut milk grits. Something tells me I will be back every chance I get for the Tawakal plate, strips of chapati cooked until soft in spiced tomato sauce with chickpeas and spinach, like a Somali version of chilaquiles. 389 Maverick Street, East Boston, 617-418-5890 —D.F.
Craigie Burger / $$ Craigie Burger really began 10 years ago at Tony Maws’s place in Central Square, Craigie on Main, which garnered national attention when featured on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine. Due to demand, Maws and his partners opened Craigie Burger this summer in Time Out Market, a light, open, industrial space. Enter the old Sears building at the front door and you’ll find the burger counter at the far end of the food hall, near the Brookline Avenue entrance. Choose from four burger options, all fashioned from sustainably grown beef that is ground and mixed especially by Northeast Family Farms. 401 Park Drive, Boston, craigieburger.com —Sheryl Julian
Orfano / $$$$ Orfano’s motto is “Sorry Nonna,” so expect more of a winky-respectful salute to tradition than reverential adherence. This venture marks chef Tiffani Faison’s return to Italian cuisine and to a slightly more formal mode of dining. Its menu features warmhearted takes on classics: clams Orfano with pancetta and toasted breadcrumbs; a house Caesar featuring chrysanthemum and avocado au poivre; meatballs alla Raia; lobster in a rich brown-butter lobster sauce, and more. 1391 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-916-9600,orfanoboston.com —D.F.
Cantina La Mexicana / $$ Robert Rendon has run Cantina La Mexicana--originally Taqueria La Mexicana--for nearly 25 years. What started out as a small counter-service taqueria to share his wife’s recipes expanded to add an adjacent cantina with a full bar. I’ve been coming to this Union Square eatery for nearly 10 years — mainly for tamales and hot sauce — and it looks exactly the same. Tamales are steamy husks of cornmeal jammed with pork; a satisfying snack. Gorditas are sturdy and stiff-at-the-edges cornmeal pancakes plied with shredded lettuce, shredded spicy pork, sour cream, refried beans, and queso. 247 Washington Street, Somerville, 617-776-5232, cantinalamexicana.com —K.B.
Fox & the Knife / $$$ A hopping, neighborhood-y Italian restaurant near the Broadway T. See what a James Beard award-winning chef does at her first solo restaurant. Karen Akunowicz left Myers + Chang to open her own place. Try the focaccia stuffed with taleggio, a grown-up’s grilled cheese, along with parsnip tortelli; campanelle with pistachio pesto, feta, and mint; ochre-hued saffron spaghetti with clams. Follow up with secondi such as pollo al mattone and harissa-braised lamb. 28 West Broadway, South Boston, 617-766-8630, foxandtheknife.com —D.F.
Ilona / $$ Specializing in Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, this is a lively neighborhood spot located in the former Parish Cafe space. Salt cod fritters here are called by the Greek word bakaliaros;lobio, red beans with onions and cilantro, is a version from the Republic of Georgia. Share sardines, octopus, mussels, meatballs, spicy Lebanese potatoes, and other unusual mezze; and choose from an adventurous wine list — with wines from Macedonia to Portugal. 783 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-207-7742, ilonasouthend.com —S.J.
North of the City
Dal Mare / $$$$ Marla and Steve Martin bought Cygnet, an upscale dining spot in Beverly Farms, a couple of years ago, closed it down, and reopened it a few months later as Dal Mare. Despite its Italian name, the restaurant is “classically American,” featuring menu items such as seafood chowder made with lobster, quahog clams, and sherry lobster butter; pan-seared scallops and risotto with peas and pancetta; key lime pie; and orange creme brulee. The vibe is tony without being intimidating, fancy enough for an anniversary dinner but low-key enough for a place to grab a bite. 24 West Street, Beverly Farms, 978-922-9221, dalmarerestaurant.com —Coco McCabe and Doug Stewart
The Porch / $$$ Chef-owner Jonathan Post comes from Nashville and worked at notable spots before landing here along the Malden River. The Porch isn’t completely new: It first opened in Wakefield in 2016, with just 20 seats. The Medford space has room for 250, plus a stage and a billiards area. Southern classics to try include the shrimp and grits, Nashville hot chicken with mac and cheese, hush puppies, cornmeal crusted catfish, and Texas brisket. 175 River’s Edge Drive, Medford, 781-874-9357, theporchsouthern.com —K.B.
Short & Main / $$ It takes guts for a restaurant to offer only three entrees, two of which are whole fish; the third is a whole Jonah Crab. At Short & Main, in the center of Gloucester with 61 seats, fish caught off Massachusetts’ shores are served on platters--head and tail intact, skin crisp from the wood-fired oven and surrounded by pieces of corn on the cob, big red potatoes, Napa cabbage, and herb salad. Shaved zucchini salad, bluefin tuna tartar, and thin crust pizzas are cooked to order. Short & Main is a sister establishment of The Market on Lobster Cove in Annisquam. 36 Main Street, Gloucester, 978-281-0044,shortandmain.com —S.J.
South of the City
Il Massimo / $$$ This family-run Italian restaurant has joined the lineup at Legacy Place, taking over the space once occupied by Met Bar & Grill. It’s owned by Esther and Joseph DeQuattro, who run a restaurant by the same name on Providence’s Federal Hill. Among the recommended dishes are the polpo appetizer — a cold plate of poached octopus, sliced as thinly as prosciutto, served with raw fennel, oranges, and micro-greens. Order the ravioli ripieni di burrata! The large ravioli ooze soft burrata cheese and are covered with a buttery stew of grape tomatoes, toasted garlic, and herbs. 400 Legacy Place, Dedham, 781-493-8113, dedham.massimori.com —Joan Wilder
West of the City
Thai Noodle Cafe / $$ Owner Sasirat Grande opened her own spot in Faneuil Hall, Bangkok Express, before relocating to Belmont. Grande recommends the Thai plates like tom zab, sweet and spicy soup; moo yang, grilled pork over sticky rice; pad krapow moo krob, crispy pork in a spicy basil sauce with onions, bell peppers, and green beans; and sour bamboo curry, red curry over pickled bamboo shoots with basil. There are also familiar standbys — pad Thai; fresh rice noodles stuffed with mixed greens, carrots, and avocado; marinated chicken satay. Grab your order to go — there are a handful of tables but it’s tight. 289 Belmont Street, Belmont, 617-932-1156, thainoodlecafe.com —K.B.
Parlour Restaurant + Bar / $$$ Get a bite at the bar in the back of the restaurant before your movie starts at the nearby Coolidge Corner Theater, or stop by afterward. Located in the space that used to house Regal Beagle, Parlour is owned by two former employees of that restaurant, which closed last year. Small plates include grilled beets with hazelnut butter, tabouli, and crunchy crackers topped with everything-bagel spice, or Nashville hot chicken “donuts,” in which dough is shaped into rounds with spicy chicken tucked inside, fried in duck fat, and presented on herb yogurt sauce. 308 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617-505-3948, parlourbrookline.com —S.J.
RiceBurg / $ Started in 2015 as a food truck traveling around Boston and beyond, RiceBurg opened in Wellesley’s downtown earlier this year. Asian-fusion rice burgers constructed using two jasmine-rice buns are the staple menu item--filled with anything from katsu chicken with pineapple, lettuce, and choice of sauce to shaved bulgogi steak with shredded carrots and spicy Korean gochujang sauce. 552 Washington Street, Wellesley, 781-772-1473, riceburg1.com —Rachel Lebeaux